Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The People's Pope

I don't normally talk politics or religion on my blog, I don't wish to anger people with something I really want to be a positive and emotional journey.  Please excuse me for talking about religion today.

I have to say, I have been rather impressed with Pope Francis.  He has been a total breath of fresh air.  From the very start, he made it clear that he was a normal dude.  He refused the massive Papal apartment.  He doesn't wear the funny Pope shoes, or generally any other of the Liberace like garb.  His car that he drives himself around in has over 300,000 miles on it.  He once swept floors for a job, and he was even once a bouncer to earn a little cash.   He is challenging the local establishment, and apparently has a belief that there is changes within that are needed.  Working for a fraternity, I understand the desire for men to resist change (sometimes), and we are only 157 years old.  The church, being thousands of years old, REALLY resists change.  Im excited about where he is going to lead us.

There have been a lot of mistakes, and some tragedies, caused by the Catholic Church.  One new Pope, won't change (or erase) all that, but he is off to a fantastic start.  Outside of the US military, I believe the Catholic Church is one of the greatest forces for good, worldwide.  Despite the mistakes that have been made, when done right, few can rival the positive impact on poverty that the Church has had.  I think they have a man at the helm who will go back to this original focus.   He seemingly wants to return the Church to the Catholic mission of love all, peace, and servitude, no matter what.

I travel a lot because of work and meet a lot of fantastic people.  I was traveling somewhere recently when the conversation of Pope Francis came up.  My friend is very opposite of me in a lot of ways.  If not for SAE (which this is one of the great aspects of any fraternity), Im not sure he and I would naturally be friends.  Our differences are most extreme by our politics.  My friend, is also a homosexual.  One thing we do have in common is we are both Catholics.  A while back I asked him what he thought of this new Pope.  His answer was "Boomer, I love Pope Francis."  Which for me, was a very powerful answer.  I felt moved by this because I thought that if Pope Francis can make us (who are very opposite) agree on something, he must be doing some good things.  Shoot, even my brother is taking notice of Pope Francis.  I was watching a morning show this morning, and they were even talking about how "cool" Pope Francis is.  The words "let me tell you how much I love Pope Francis" were used.  Church attendance is up across the world, and much of has been attributed to Pope Francis and his common person views of things.

Who knows what will happen from here?  The Church is an organization that has been very important to my father (my hero), his mother, and is with Brooke and I. Its so fulfilling to have someone at the top who says things that we have said for a long time.  I believe that every organization, regardless of the scope or size, needs a leader they can believe in.  They need someone who they have faith will make the right decisions no matter the difficulty.  They also have to believe that leader will remain calm during stormy waters.  Pope Francis is someone I can look up to.  I think he is someone, regardless of your faith, we all might be able to look up to.  Lets hope so anyway, thats why they call it "faith."

Pax vobiscum!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Captain, a Co-Pilot...and his kid

Monday was a big day in the Ayers household, Hadley Blaine got her ears pierced.  For the most part, this isn't a huge day in many households.  Heck, this was the fourth time we had done it in ours.  Well fifth if you count mine, its a long story.  Anyway, we sort of decided on the spur of the moment to do this.  It would be made even more special with one set of her grandparents there.  That didn't work out so well, apparently Pop is somewhat squeamish.  At 2.5 you never really know if your girls want their ears pierced or not.  One minute they tell you yes, the next they say no.  They want sparkly ears like their sisters, but they really have no idea what it takes to get them.  She was so calm and trusting in that tall chair, she sat in the chair like a champ.  Thankfully, she had both ears done at the same time.  There was a half a second delay, when she got this shocked look on her face.  How could we do this to her? She then scrunched her face and almost began to cry from the pain.  That is when someone, perfectly timed I might add, shoved a bowl full of lollipops in her face.  She immediately forgot the pain in her ears, and then began picking suckers out for everyone.  She was the Oprah of suckers...."AND YOU GET A SUCKER, AND YOU GET A SUCKER!" Well, perhaps it wasn't that dramatic, but close.  In her handing them out, she ignored her pain.  That was it,  she was ready to move on.

The real pain of the night, I think, belonged to her mother.  I know how she feels, I felt it once too.  I vividly remember the day when Reagan got her ears pierced in Lexington.  I remember being a little sad on that day.  To me it meant my first big girl was growing up.  I figured it was the first of many of these moments, that will prove to me that my time as her first/greatest love is on the clock.  Like many other seemingly minor moments with her and her sisters, I was reminded that all of this is limited.  We live like there is an infinite well of life's precious moments which is ultimately one of the greatest mistakes we can make in life.  Despite all that,  I was happy for Reagan, sad for her Old Man.  I remember the sting that day, Brooke felt it today.

Brooke is always the brave one with the girls.  She can let them run off the diving board at the pool like flying squirrels.  I prefer to be out of the state when this happens.  She lets go of the bike when they are driving it.  I prefer to turn my back and cover my head in the dirt.  I want nothing but to protect my girls, and not ever let them get run over by life.  We are actually a good combination for the girls, like with most things, Brooke and I are a good team. They get a lot of their toughness from their mother, and a lot of their compassion from their Dad.  This is good though, when it comes to emotions, they will expect a husband to be empathetic, sympathetic, and passionate like me.  They will grow up to be disciplined, organized,  and dedicated, like their mother.  Anyway, when the idea came up for the earrings on Monday, I was all about it.  I didn't think twice.  Brooke on the other hand, was a little sad.  She was sad because this was her last baby.  Her last one to get their ears pierced.  She has carried her children in her for close to 40 months, or well over a total of 3 years of her life.  She has fed them with her own milk for a longer amount of time than that.  Sometimes she was pregnant with one, while feeding the other.  She has changed an uncountable number of diapers, she has gotten up in the middle of the night more times then she would care to admit...and here was one of those moments for her.  One that sort of kicks you in the gut.  Its a little, unplanned moment, but a moment nonetheless.  Her last baby was getting her ears pierced.   I felt bad for Brooke, more than I did for the actual pain that Hadley was unaware she would get.

In the end, not much has changed.  Hadley woke up on Tuesday and was pretty much the same kid she was on Monday (Lord help us).  We will go on with our routine, and the girls will get a little older.  It depresses me to know that with each passing day this holiday season, it might be the last for Reagan to have that special sparkle in her eye.  One that only a kid who truly believes has.  It will make me sad when that day comes and she wants to know the truth about the season.  Brooke (of course) is prepared.  She has a letter ready for Reagan and fully knows how she is going to tackle the issue.  She will be the stronger one of us two.  I wouldn't be surprised though, when that day comes for Hadley, that it is me that is the strong one.  I guess that says a lot about the differences between the both of us.

In the old days, it is believed by some that Pirates got their ears pierced because they thought it gave them better vision for the horizons in front of their sails.  With each passing day, Brooke and I see those horizons a little clearer.  We are doing our job as parents, so that one day those girls can set sail on their own.  I have heard that the only way to discover new oceans is to have the courage to lose sight of the shore.  Its nice to have a good co pilot (and many times be a co pilot myself) to navigate those waters, especially when you have an unruly crew.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

God Bless 'Merica

Reagan will be going through her first communion this May.  She goes to church school every week in preparation.  One of the things they (her and Caroline) are learning, are all the Catholic prayers.  This week The Lord's Prayer was the prayer to learn.  She caught on pretty fast, and she wanted to show Caroline she knew the prayer.

Reagan: Our Father, Who art in heaven, 
Hallowed be Thy Name. 
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Its not about the food.

I don't talk about work a lot on social media, at least as it relates to anything negative.  Every negative comment I could say on Facebook or Twitter, can/will be dissected and possibly misinterpreted.  Therefore, I rarely post anything negative on social media, about anything.  However, if we are having #realtalk, it has been a difficult few weeks at work.  Sometimes the pressure is intense, and self doubt creeps in.  Its difficult for it not to.

The one thing that keeps me going is that 90 minutes of the day from 6:00PM to 7:30PM.  I'm generally one of the first in the parking lot at work, but I make it clear that I wont be the last.  Some might think that the "CEO" should sleep on a couch in his office.  I refuse to do that.  The most important thing in my life is those 5 girls at home.  It takes me about 45 minutes to get home every night.  It is lights out at my house at 7:30 sharp.  Taps is played, girls are in bed.  I always enjoy the next hour or so with Brooke, when we catch up on our shows, or just pass out on the couch.  But my highlight is that 6-7:30 block when we are all together.  It literally is the best part of my day.  Therefore, with traffic, if I don't get out of there by 5:30- it isn't happening.  Our time together gets me through all those difficult times.  I work some when they all go to bed, I travel on most weekends.  I have no guilt making sure that I block this small time out for them.

So tonight, per usual when I'm in town, I got home as fast as I could.  It appeared dark when I pulled up the driveway, but I was ready to release the weight of the work day and be surrounded with hugs and shrieks for my homecoming.  Turns out, no one is here.  I then recalled a moment last night when Brooke was talking to me, asking me to do a favor today.  I was immersed at something on my phone, and mentally I was trying to navigate a very difficult situation at work.  After about 3 or 4 minutes of Brooke talking to me, I looked at her and said in an exhausted tone, "I'm not listening to you at all."  I didn't mean to be rude, but I had literally heard zero of what she was asking me to do.  Work, at the moment (and in my mind), was too important.  She didn't deserve that.  She could tell I was distracted, and told me not to worry about it.

I had forgotten about that conversation until I got home about 45 minutes ago.  I was curious as to where my girls were at, and why the house was empty?  That's when I saw this note above.  I recalled Brooke telling me that there was something going on today.  Had I been paying attention, I could have done something to help.  I wasn't, and I didn't.  Brooke could have reacted a lot of ways last night, and she handled it correctly.  Even if I didn't.  She didn't need to cook me dinner,  she didn't need to take care of me.  Not only did she make sure that after a long day I was fed, she made sure (even in her absence) that after a long day....I was loved.

So thank you, Brooke.  Today I wont get my 90 minutes (cause y'all still aren't here), but in a lot of ways, I got something I needed more.  Tomorrow, I will wake up and attack the day in a way that SAE deserves.  Thanks for giving me the support to do so, even when its mentally difficult for me to do so.

6:52 I heard the heard stomping on the back deck, gotta go!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Good touch, bad touch

I have always alleged that my parents love my older brother more than me.  Patrick says "they should, they've known me longer."  Honestly, I don't really believe this to be true, but its fun to tease my parents about from time to time.  Actually, they went out of their way to make sure that things were equal for Patrick and I.  Every time I accused my folks of this, they always had a great response, "we love you equally, just differently."  Now that I am a parent myself, I totally understand what they were saying.

Not only do I love my girls (equally) differently, they each challenge me differently.  Baylor Grace fits right into that mold.  No question, my favorite part of my day is when I take her to school.  Because of the different start times of the different schools, she goes before the others.  On the days that I travel, or have an obligation that makes me go to work earlier, its a lot more stressful to get everyone out the door earlier.  So, not only do I cherish that alone time with Baylor Grace, it helps everyone else out, too.  She talks almost the entire (short) drive to school.  She then holds my hand as we walk to the back door of the school.  We are almost always first in line, most of the time I kneel down and talk with her until she goes.  I always remind how much I love her, and how I miss her already (even though she hadn't gone in yet).  I tell her I will watch her go in until I cant see her anymore, then I walk back to the car....alone.  Ive mentioned it before, it still hurts-just a little- every time.  I know that this time would be the best time for me to workout.  Honestly, its about the only time I can consistently work out. I know that if I didn't do this routine with Baylor Grace, I would not be as pudgy as I am now.  Every night, she asks if I could take her to school in the morning, how could I turn that down?  I don't want to lose this time with her, its worth the trade off.  I love my morning talks with Baylor Grace.  

She does challenge me though, differently than her sisters.  I worry about Reagan, because I think she is too hard on herself.  She is your typical, great, first child.  If she doesn't get a 100% on every thing she does, she gets upset.  Her perfectionist streak is from her mother.  I worry about Caroline, because she is such an emotional basket case.  She looks for the best in everyone, and as a result, she leaves herself vulnerable to getting burned/hurt.  She has a huge heart, which will someday be a target.  She gets that from her father.  I worry about Hadley, because she has her father's sense of humor, but her mothers daring personality.  This is a very dangerous combination.  This will get her in, and out, of lots of trouble.  Then there is Baylor Grace.  She has the blond hair, blue eyes.  I once mentioned that Caroline was like the mayor of her school, everyone said hello (and loved) Caroline.  Baylor Grace isn't the mayor of her school, she is more like the Carrie Underwood of her school.  When we walk up to school (as I mentioned above) the boys literally come running to say hi.  I am tempted daily to give the boys a quick judo chop, as I have to already fight them off.  I understand the headlines would not be favorable, but I think every father in the world would understand my position.  This was only amplified the other, when she was leaving school and hugged and kissed a boy goodbye. Not to mention, this happened one day after a different boy (Bryan) gave her a rainbow loom bracelet.  She is going to be trouble.

When each of the girls reach about the age of four, my wife has taken on the unenviable task of teaching the girls the difference between "good touch" and "bad touch".  I hate this, it makes me sick to my stomach.  Not just because this is every parents nightmare, but because its an end of an innocent stage of their lives.  It means they are getting older. It is one of their first lessons of the bad parts of a life, that up until this point, had been nothing but a life of love and happiness. That lesson stinks, too.  Brooke has always had a fantastic way with kids in general, but she does a great job of explaining this difficult subject to kids.  She can really get on their level, and I am totally fine letting her tackle this one.

These conversations had gone pretty well with the girls.  The first two understood with no major questions.  Private parts are private, if it happens you have to tell Mom and Dad, etc.  Well, today was Baylor Grace's day.  Brooke said things were going well until she asked Baylor Grace if she had any questions.  BG had one, Brooke braced herself.  

Brooke:  Baylor Grace, do you have any questions for Mommy?
Baylor Grace:  So....what happens when I get older, are people allowed to touch my private parts then?

So after Brooke picked her jaw off the floor, she said no.  Those are her private parts (we will burn that bridge when we get there). Jesus, Mary, & Joesph, Baylor are going to give your father a heart attack.

Suddenly questions about The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, and Santa, seem a little more manageable.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Profiles in Courage

It has been a while since I profiled a friend of mine.  I started with JR (my brother in law) who is a cop.  I then did one on Col. Bartholomew (a fraternity brother, friend, and US soldier). This is my next chapter in that series.  Is this not an absolutely fantastic picture?  It is one that truly is worth a thousand words.  You see one solider fishing.  You see another, presumably, who is in Special Forces.  You cant really tell where they are, although the camo pattern would signify Afghanistan.  I only know that because I'm oddly into football and military uniforms.  This would be a great picture on its own.  Its made an even better picture because the man with the fishing rod (which is made of makeshift parts) is my former roommate from college.  That is Chad Chenoweth.  Chad and I shared a room while at the SAE house.  He was the most southern, redneck, person I have ever met from Ohio.  I mean that as a compliment, and Cheno would take it like one.  He was a freshman, when I was a junior.  We were sort of at different points in our lives when we roomed together, so we didn't hang out more than suite mates would.  The four of us (Priest, Hart, Cheno, and myself) all got along great.

I was gone, done with UK, before I really got to see the man that Cheno had grown into.  That is one of the great things about Facebook.  I would see occasional updates on Cheno.  I saw where he married his high school sweetheart (which is pretty cool), who he once bought a rat for..... for valentines day.  I remember because he would occasionally have the d*mned thing in our room.  He called the rat "sweetheart" because it had a heart shaped brown spot on his back.  He actually affectionately called the rat, sweetie if I remember correctly. I don't get it. I never got.  But that was Cheno.  He later had a baby girl and a son, a complete family.  With those few details alone, I was happy for Cheno.  Good for him.

One day out of the blue, I got a call from Cheno.  He was rising up the ranks of the U.S. Army, and he needed a reference for top secret clearance.  He wanted to ask if it was okay if he used me as a reference as he attempted to get the clearance.  Not only did it catch me off guard, I was incredibly humbled and honored.  As many times as I have been asked to be a reference, never had it been in this capacity.  Never had it been from someone like Cheno.  As a result, Cheno and I started to keep in better contact. I won't lie and act as if we are best friends.  That's honestly probably more to due with proximity than anything (and I don't just mean him being in Afghanistan).

I was fortunate to have a lot of fraternity brothers at UK that went on to do great things.  I was proud to simply know so many of them.   Of all of them, there are a few of them that I look upon as they have grown into men, almost as a proud father.  Not because I had anything to do with their success, just because I'm so fricking proud of the men they have become.  Jonathan Cummins (with a wife and two baby girls, also served our Air Force) is one, Cheno is the other.

The other day I asked Cheno what he had done in the Army, because I knew I wanted to write the blog about him.  I figured it would be easier to simply ask him.  Here is what he sent me:

Infantry Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, Scout Platoon Leader and Battalion logistics officer from 2005 to 2009 stationed in Hawaii, and deployed to Iraq for 15 months. After that, Captain's Career Course at Ft. Benning in 2009, Ranger Instructer and RSLC Operations Officer from 2009-2011. Deployed again in 2011 for 6 months. Took Company Command in May of 2012, and completed that command yesterday, 4 months of Command in Combat on my 3rd Deployment to Afghanistan on a 9 month rotation this time. Going to RC-South to work for Brigade HQs now.

I don't know what the majority of this means.  I just know that it is pretty bad a*s.  I can decipher that he has gone above and beyond in protecting our freedoms.  I can decipher that he has become highly successful in his field, and I can decipher that has far exceed any of us in life's accomplishments.  He is the type of guy they make video games out of.  He is Cheno, he was my roommate.

Phi Alpha, Cheno.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It was a beautiful day.

Today was a great day.  It was that rare weekend when I didn't have to travel, and we had nothing on the schedule.  One of my favorite things to do on days like this is cook a big breakfast for the girls.  The whole 9 yards.  As we sit down for breakfast, here was the conversation:

Caroline :Mamaw cooks the best breakfast!
Hadley: Mamaw (she now can say Mamaw, instead of Memaw, which incidently enough was my grandmother, my mother's mother).
Reagan: Yes, Mamaw is the best chef.  She cooks everything better.
Hadley: Mamaw
Me:  Yes, if I had a restaurant, I would call it Mamaw's and it would be all the food she cooked.
Hadley: Mamaw
Caroline: Her turkey, her dumplings, her french toast.....
Reagan: thats because she grew up on a farm (which is pretty much true).
Me: Thats true, and it was on that farm...I think, that Mamaw saw Santa!
Caroline: Wait....Mamaw has seen Santa?
Me:  Yes, Sport.  She swears by it to this day.  No one keeps the spirit of Christmas alive year round like Mamaw.

That's when I realized that this will be one of my mother's legacies to her granddaughters.  As long as they are alive, they will remember their Mamaw as a great cook, and someone who always believed.

That's sort of what I love about my mother, too.  She has always believed.  She has always kept the faith.  She has always believed in my father, she never stopped believing in Patrick and I (even when we pushed her away), she never stopped believing in the spirit of Christmas, and she has never stopped believing in her faith.  No matter what, she stays the course.  This is what her granddaughters will always remember of her.  That's pretty cool.

We then loaded up the van and headed about 40 miles north to pick apples.  This is sort of a big deal, because in Lexington we used to do this stuff all the time.  You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a farm that was growing something for you to pick.  We used to go all the time, and it is some of our greatest memories of the girls.  We did it almost this exact time last year, so we decided to head back to the same farm.  We picked 20lbs of apples, many of which we weren't supposed to pick.  We didn't want the smaller apples that were ready to pick, we wanted the big, fat, juicy apples.  So we picked those.  The owner liked the girls so much, she gave us special permission to pick her personal raspberry bushes, not open to the public.  We got two whole batches of raspberries.  When we were checking out, the lady asked Hadley if she has picked any berries, Hadley points to her open mouth and goes "yummmmmm."  I told Hadley she was telling on herself, and the lady asked Hadley if she should weigh Hadley (because she had eaten so many of the berries....and apples for that matter).  We went from there to lunch at  Red Robbin, one of the girls favorite places to eat.  It was a beautiful day.

We got home, all rested a bit, then went to their school to ride bikes. Caroline did it on her first try.  I later helped walk Mimi and Pop through setting up their new iPhones, and then had Ramen Noodles for dinner (which is what I wanted). We capped it off with movie night and SEC football.

I realized that all throughout the day, we were doing things that both sets of grandparents would be proud of, things they both would want to do with us.  Big meals, berry picking, playing at a park, riding bikes, at the school, taking pictures, and dozing off on the couch.

It was a beautiful day indeed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It was love....

Tomorrow, when we are reminded of that horrible day, just remember this one thing....  When chaos was all around, when people thought jumping was a better option, when they looked out the window as their plane flew closer to the was not hate in the victim's minds, it wasn't war either.  Over and over again, their last words were words of love.  Tell my wife, tell the girls, tell my boy, tell my husband, tell Mom and Dad...that I love them.  It is all over the news.  That is why the terrorists will never win.  When terrorists do what they do, they have hate in their hearts.  On that day, those victims had love.  Love is much more powerful, and love always wins in the end.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Never meant to last....

I love Jimmy Buffett, who amongst us doesn't?  However, I dont love Jimmy Buffett like the vast majority of people out there do.  Most people get into JB in college, and the only album they own is Songs You Know By Heart.  They can sing every word of Margaritaville, but look at you like you're an alien if you mention Gods Own Drunk, Little Miss Magic, or Steamer.  Like the best Sunday drives, I generally prefer the songs that go off the beaten JB path.  While I have never been drunk, done my bit of smugglin, or some of the other things Jimmy sings out about, much of what he sings about has always resonated with me.

The first concert I ever went to was a Jimmy Buffett concert.  I believe this to be one of the cooler facts of my life, and always enjoy it when its an icebreaker question.  How many people can honestly say that?  I was about 5, it was at Old Cardinal Stadium.  I remember Mom and Dad debating if I should go, but ultimately letting me go.  I also seemingly remember watching some of the concert on Mr Fulner's Chuck Fulner's shoulders.  I remember fearfully looking for a stadium shark when the song Fins was played.  It is probably one of my earliest memories in general.  Thanks to a thing called Google, I can confirm that the show was 7.03.1985, as part of the Sleepless Knights tour (and yes I was five).  Mom and Dad will have to confirm the other details.

Sometimes the important songs come and go, depending on my stage of life.  For instance, the song Steamer, has always reminded me of Brooke, and that time when we fell in love.
You can ignore the pics, they obviously aren't mine.  I appreciate whomever put this together, because its about the only online version (again not a high traffic Jimmy Buffett song).  Anyway, songs come and go depending on what you're facing in life.

Today I was cooking breakfast for the girls when A Pirate Looks At Forty came on (the first clip above). I have heard that song 1000 times in my life.  Its one of the more well known songs, but its one that sort of took on a different meaning to me lately.  This past week I had a birthday, got a little bit older, and am currently facing forty. While Im still closer to 30 than 40 (for a little bit longer), there isnt any going back.  As I mentioned before, Jimmy Buffett also reminds me of my childhood.  I can recall multiple briefcases of Jimmy Buffet tapes being brought with us on our family vacations to Florida.  We were a road tripping family.  We all loved to hop in the family truckster and head to Longboat Key.  We had a few rules as it related to Jimmy Buffet.  We couldn't listen to Jimmy until we go to the Florida boarder, then we had to listen to Margaritaville on full blast.  We would always stop at the Welcome Station, get fresh orange juice, grab all the brochures, then head to LBK.  It was another 5 hours or so of non stop Buffett playing.  Jimmy Buffett reminds me of those good times, those safe times, when I was younger.  I can recall the feeling of being where I belonged when I would stare at the Gulf of Mexico.  Some people believe we are called to the ocean, because the  sound of the waves crashing subconsciously reminds of us when we were in our mother's stomach.  The sounds of the waves are very similar to what we heard at that point.  Could be true, there is an unusual calm and peace I always feel on those white sands.  Inevitably, life's memories seem to flash before your eyes as you watch for the green flash.

So not only am I getting older,  Im getting all those things that come with getting older.  There is some beauty in climbing that ladder, watching the girls grow up is truly a daily gift.  Having someone to grow old with, is one of the greatest gifts of all.  But there are scary moments as well.  Moments when you're not sure if the money will stretch, moments when the lack of any job security makes you uneasy about the future, and moments when a test comes back and the doctor says its "abnormal."   Its all part of the deal.  You cant have the beautiful, without the ugly.

Dad always loved this song, he said one day I would understand.  I think that day has finally come.  Dad and Jimmy are both looking at 70, and this swashbuckler is staring down the infamous barrel of 40.  I guess we are all "pirates" in our own way, and there comes a time when we all realize it was never meant to last.    

Saturday, August 24, 2013

So long, good friend....

What you see here is a box.  Inside this box it is like a treasure chest of memories and moments in time.  You see a CD (who uses those anymore?), a iphone charger wire, some documents, trash, etc.   Take it all in.  We have known this day was coming, we have known that we were on borrowed time, ever since we moved to Chicago.

Let me first take you back to August, 2010.  We had three girls, aged 1, 3 & 4.  We were living in Lexington, KY.  Life was good.  In 2008, I had given up a beautiful FX4 version of an F150 for a mini van.  We needed the room, our family was growing.  I did the best I could, but the van I got was not a very good van.  I didn't know any better.  A few years later, our family HAD grown, and we had two mini vans.  I was driving the bad one, Brooke had the good.  That's the way it should be.  By August of 2010 my patience had long left, and I wanted an F150 again.  Brooke said that's fine and that "I deserved it."  She warned against it though, if we had another kid, they wouldn't all fit.  Well, we cant live life by what ifs.  If my aunt had balls...she would be my uncle.  My loving and supportive wife was letting me get my toy.  So, in August I got my dream truck (again).  Two weeks after I got my truck, we got pregnant (again thats kid #4 in case you lost count).  This wasn't the end of the world though, my truck still worked in Lexington.  Me and my truck were becoming one.  We would drive through the gorgeous Lexington countryside,  like it was our own Ford commercial.  I was somewhat defined by my big, beautiful, truck.

Then life happened, and we had to move to Chicago.  One month after I moved up here, someone scraped my door.  This was heartbreaking.  I took immaculate care of my truck.  She still looks and smells new.  That's sort of the Chicago code though, no one really cares about that kindof stuff up here.  Everyone's car is banged up.  Heck, I could not even drive my truck on most streets downtown, and I couldn't park her, overnight, on any streets.  Silly, silly,  Yankee rules.  The F150 just didn't really fit up here.  The streets are narrow, the driveways are narrow, space is at a premium.  I didn't drive her much, I think I got 3 oil changes her entire shelf life with me.   I think in her (the truck) heart of hearts, she knew.

Ive been thinking for awhile it was time for me to part ways with her.  Not only was I restricted with where I could take the F150, I could not fit my entire family in the car.  It was becoming an issue with me.  My original thought was that I was going to get an Explorer. It could fit everyone, it was cool enough for me (so I thought), so I started shopping around to try and find one.  As I got closer to making a deal, I realized I wasn't going to be happy driving the Explorer.  I really wont be happy driving anything other than my truck.  My truck, that didn't work.  On my way home from a dealership, I had an epiphany.  Thanks to some encouragement from my mother, I knew what I had to do.

Why pay for a car that I'm not going to be happy with?  Why not get Brooke something great that she can drive for years?  I want my girls to have the best, be the safest.  Since I don't drive much, the answer was pretty clear.  I needed to just take Brooke's van, and get her a brand stinking new one.  So that is what I did.

Today, I turned my truck in.  I will now drive a used, dirty, stinky, mini van.  The above picture is the box of stuff from my truck.  The feeling at the dealership is part break up, part dropping your kid off at college.  As I was cleaning out my truck, every time I would grab something, I would think about why it was in my truck.  A lot of great memories came to my mind.  It was sad.  I love that truck.  I packed up the box, went into the waiting room, and began to go through all the great stuff I did with that truck.  It was very much like that scene in Christmas Vacation with Clark watches those 8mm films in the attic.  I thought about the girls playing in the truck bed.  I thought about all the times I dropped them off at school in that truck.  I laughed about our duck(s) (from Lexington) picking a fight with his reflection in the truck wheel.  I thought about the first time we went camping with the truck.  I thought about the drive up to Chicago, by myself, when I left "My Old Kentucky Home" in the rear view mirror.  Yes, I cried.  She had seen a lot, and she protected my family.  She wasn't just a truck, she was part of me.  But she knew.

I left the lot today in a van that had 6 miles on it, had its model had only been on the market a week.  I drove it home and gave the keys to Brooke.  We already started the switching of the vans.  I think if anyone was more upset about me getting ride of the truck than I was, it was Reagan.  She loved that truck.  She knew one day it would be hers.  To be honest, I'm totally okay with my choice.  Brooke gets a great new van, and the girls will be even safer.  In 3 years of driving my truck, I drove a total of 17,207 miles.  Do the math, that ain't much. I told you I didn't drive much. Why pay for a car for me to drive, that I'm not going to want long term? Right now, I don't need a new car.

On my home, I realized that the truck really didn't define me. It only defined part of me.  Actually, what fully defines me is being a father to my four girls.  A van symbolizes that very fact.  Besides, what difference does it really make?  I just need something to get me to work those few days I actually go into the office.  Now, I have the best kind.  You know what the best kind of car is? One that in about a month, will be completely paid off.

So I might as well roll down the window and let the music blast.

Don't worry, before Reagan went to bed tonight I whispered into her ear "Sport, its all part of the plan.  Play you cards right, and you'll still get your truck when you turn 16."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sometimes, I have failed as a friend.

This is literally, one of my favorite movie clips off all time.  I honestly believe it sums my personality up, 100%.  I'm fortunate to have lots of people across this country that I care about. I was overwhelmed and honored by the support of my SAE Brothers this past Convention.  With all groups, there are a few that stand out, a few you become naturally closer too.

There are few guys from my past that rise above the rest.  You had Brad Beckman & Jonathan Cummins.  Both incredible men, men who now have even better families.  I was super close to them in college, and we attempt to remain close now.  But then you have John Roberts, Craig Alexander, and Sam Adams.  John Roberts was a great athlete, all around stud.  We didn't become friends till later in college, then we became good friends.  We became better friends when in Key West for Spring Break our senior year John thought he was going to get his butt kicked by some guy who thought John was taking his girl from him.  This was probably true, John could have gotten any girl he wanted.  We didn't forge a bond because of the potential fight, we forged a bond because we knew John was going to get beat down (sorry John), but there I was standing next to him.  It would have been ugly, but I didn't care.  John Roberts "was my friend."  Then you had Craig Alexander.  He was the smart one of the bunch.  He missed out on that potential beat down (yes he would have been standing there next to us) because he thought staying home from that Spring Break to study for the MCAT was a good idea.  For a while that choice was debatable, but now he is a doctor at Texas Children's Hospital.  So, I guess he was right.  Anyway, Craig was another amazing guy in our pledge class, who definitely "started the party!"  I think back to the fall of 1997, about this time of year, and I am thankful that I got thrown together with such a great group of guys.  All of this because of SAE.  Last, but not least, you had Sam Adams.  Sam is a dudes, dude.  He is the best friend a guy could ever ask for. Seriously.   Quick with a joke, always there when things went "South", and he even spent some holidays with my family.  Ill never forget the night we went to a Kenny Chesney concert together, after an opening season football loss, and he was concerned that Trinity would not score a touchdown all season.   Sam, as Trinity's Offensive Coordinator, lead us to a title that season. He is a great football mind, and a better friend.  I miss his friendship on a daily basis.  As great of a guy as Sam is, he out kicked his coverage with his wife, Kim.  He is doing great things at Hoover High School, in Alabama.

What do all three of these men have in common? I missed all of their weddings because of work.  I had to coach a football game when John got married, and I had a SAE Convention during Craig (2009) and Sam's wedding (2013).  Sam's wedding I hated missing the most, I wasn't sure he would ever get married.  He was one of the first non family members to hold Reagan when she was born (he sort of held her like she was a bomb), and I wasn't there for his big moment.

I love all these guys.  We may not be as close as we once were, Id like to think its because we are all spread out across the country.  Life sometimes gets in the way.    I'm glad I was there for Brad and JC's big day, even if me being there probably wasn't noticed either way.  Well it might have been for Jon, because I was in his wedding.   I will never get over the fact that I wasn't there for John, Craig, and Sam's.  Its of little consequence to them (which is the way it should be), but I hope they know how much I regret that work pulled me away.  Their friendship has always meant the world to me.  I am who I am today, partially because of them.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Thank you for being a friend-

It has been a crazy summer, a long time since my last post.  A lot of great things have happened as well.
1)SAE 157th Convention
2) Sam Adams got married
3)4th of July in Nashville
4) FEA Conference in San Antonio
5) Brooke and I celebrated our 10th Anniversary in Kauai, Hawaii.
6) SAE 78th Leadership School
7) Our trip to Chinatown
8) and tomorrow we are going camping.

I have had my mother and father legion of fans ask about when I was going to write my next blog.  Don't worry, it is coming.  Just like television, summer is sort of my time to regroup.  I did a ton I could have blogged about, mainly Hawaii.  However, other than the pics on facebook, that was our time.  That was Brooke's time.  I hope she enjoyed the trip as much as I did.  I was reminded why I fell in love with her, which admittedly I sometimes lose sight of, and why I lover her more today than I did yesterday.

With a new school year coming, my work travel schedule picking up again, I will have many new adventures to blog about.  I appreciate your loyalty, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Trouble with the curve

I finally sat down and watched Trouble With The Curve the other day, and I actually enjoyed the movie.  I love movies in general, I go about once a week.  I saw Man of Steel last week, World War Z yesterday.  I have no problem going by myself either, I just like to go.  I like to be moved, I like to be entertained.  Im not your typical critic, Patrick is better for that.  I don't know technical side of movies, or what goes into making the movie.  I just like to be entertained.

Anyway, so I watched this movie and actually pulled some parallels to my life...something else I like about movies.  Clint Eastwood names his daughter Mickey in the movie because his favorite player of all time was Mickey Mantle.  My father's favorite play was The Mick. Clint doesn't have a great relationship with his daughter, but he connects with her via baseball.  While it is a male dominated field, she loves being around it, because it allows her to be around her father.  My girls, whom I feel I have a much better relationship with than Clint did in his movie, have been heard saying "I don't care Daddy, as long as we are together."  It doesn't matter if we are grilling out, watching a ball game on TV, they just want to be around me.  This is nice, because it wont always be that way.   If you asked Reagan what her favorite movies are, Gone With The Wind would be number 1, The Princess Bride would probably be #2.  If you asked Caroline, #1 would be Pirates of the Caribbean #4, and her second favorite movie would be The Avengers.  Baylor Grace's favorite movie is The Patriot, followed by My Little Pony (not sure how that one got in there), and Ghostbusters.  I think I'm doing a decent job of exposing my girls to things Daddy likes, and showing them the fun movies can bring.

The curve ball has kept so many guys out of The League.  It has been said that the curve kept Castro from the Majors, and it was what kept Michael Jordan out of the Majors as well.  Could you imagine if Castro was a baseball player, or if MJ had never returned to basketball?  How different our world would be.  Its a tough pitch to hit, you have to have patience.  A good curve is going to fall off the end of a table, inpatient hitters swing too soon, and the ball isn't where they thought it was.  You have to stay back on it. Don't jump to conclusions, the ball wont be where you started swinging.  Life is like that.

Life throws you curveballs, too.  I never envisioned I would have 4 girls. I don't know what to do with girls, how to raise them.  I can only raise them with love and support, like my parents did me, and I have to let them know that its okay to like sports, history, pirates, superheroes, and ghost.  Yes, there is great trouble with a curve.  That's okay, the trouble is where there is growth.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Next stop, Cooperstown.

I heard some sportscaster talking on the radio one time about what it takes to be a Hall of Famer.  His argument, in my mind, actually made a lot of sense.  This guy said that if it takes more than once sentence to describe someones career, he shouldn't be in the HoF.  Interesting thought, but if you think about it, it is very true.

Muhammad Ali: The greatest.
Michael Jordan: The best basketball player ever.
Joe Montana: The best QB of all time.
Jerry Rice: The best WR of all time.
Ray Lewis: The best LB of a generation.

The list goes on and on.  The more I try and disprove it, the more it seems to be accurate.  I think the same can be said about my dad.  I have previously blogged a lot about my father.  Let me tell you what he isnt.  He isnt perfect.  I make no claims of having a father who is perfect.  He has flaws like all of us do.  Some of his flaws, he passed onto me.  But let me tell you what he is.  Dad is loyal.  In an age when that word doesn't mean what it once did, he is that to a core.  He and Mom just celebrated their 45th Anniversary, they have been together 50 years.  He doesn't have a lot of friends, but the ones he does, he would literally go to the end of the world for them.  He holds onto to those friends, even if he hasn't spoken to them in a few years.  He is honest.  I have never met a man who is as uncompromising in his integrity.  He might have made more money in life, or maybe gotten a little further, if he had no conscious about doing so on the backs of others.  He wouldn't stand for that.  Dad is passionate.  He doesn't care about a lot, but he cares deeply about a few things. Mom, Patrick, and I were all he had for about 20 years.  That is all he needed.  No matter how bad things got in the outside world, he faced those challenges because of his desire to provide for us.  As long as we are okay, he is fine with everything else.  His family has expanded more than he could have ever imagined, and in ways that are foreign to us (lots of pink).  He loves in a way that sets an example for others to follow. He is a man of faith.  No matter what obstacles that life throws at him.  Challenges that would make most men question their faith, he remains steadfast in his beliefs.  When it comes to his religion, he is an oak. He is funny.  He has a tongue like a sword.  He posses a wit, quicker than a rabbit.  Sometimes he relies on his humor to lighten a mood, where most would not be brave enough to make a joke.   He is smart, he has aged well, and he is goofy.  He is my dad.  I wish I could be with him this fathers day, more than anything in the world.  I'm thankful though that I can still pick up the phone and make that call.  I am thankful that FaceTime is an option.  Our reunion will have to wait just a few weeks.  Tomorrow, I will concentrate on being the Daddy, not the son.  That's the way he would have wanted it anyway.

My father is a sure fire, first round, hall of famer.  Tim Ayers: The greatest man I have ever known.

And let me say this...  While this blog is dedicated to my father, I am blessed to have a first ballot hall of fame father in law, too.  I have said I won the lottery when it came to in laws, but Rojo has been not just a great FiL, but a good friend, too.  Rob Phillips:all a guy could ever ask for, in a father in law.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Walking on water....

Most parents think their kids can walk on water.  Most parents think their kids are the most handsome/prettiest around.  Most parents think their kids are the next Einstein.  Most parents think their kids will cure Cancer.  The truth is generally somewhere in the middle.  I make no grand claims that my kids are any of these things.  Who knows what my girls will do?  I do know they are perfect for me, and thats what matters the most.  You also have to keep things in perspective, which some parents have trouble doing on Facebook.  "Oooh little Johnny (who is 16) put the correct shoe on the correct foot today!"  "Yes, look at little Susie, isn't she the prettiest?" Mother later wonders why no one has liked her status/pic.....

Anyway, I suppose its the way it should be.  Parents should think their kids are wonderful.  The flip side of that, parents should know when they need to correct behaviors of their kids, and not enable their kids...but I digress.  I have a saying around my work, "we aren't curing Cancer."  I use it when someone is overcomplicating something, or when someone is being too dramatic about a situation that does not deserve it.  I.J.A.F., its just a fraternity.  I say that because I want people to keep proper perspective on all things except UK sports in life.

My kids have yet to cure Cancer, they may never do such a glorious act.  Regardless, I have never been as proud of anyone or anything in my life.  Think about that.  I'm proud of my parents for working so hard to love each other after 50 years together, and for providing for Patrick and I.  I'm proud of Patrick for fighting the good fight with Dad, and for being a great example to me.  I'm proud of my in laws (both parents and brother's families), they all inspire me.  I'm even proud of the many SAE's I have come across.  From Dick Myers (former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Tim Sirota- who fought in Iraq twice, to come back and start a SAE chapter at his school, and has now become a great undergraduate brother.  I'm around inspiring people everyday.

 Having said that, I was the most proud I have ever been in my life yesterday.  I have blogged about the efforts my girls have made for the boy named Patrick down in Tennessee.  As we know, Patrick passed away sometime ago.  The girls held bake sales, sold lemonade, and did all they could to raise money to help Patrick fight.  You are always unsure what sinks in with kids, sometimes they each pick something different.  About a year ago, we showed Caroline (all the girls) pictures of Patrick as he got really sick.  Questions were raised about Patrick and his loss of his hair.  When Brooke explained the hair loss, Caroline instantly grabbed onto the idea of her donating her hair to Locks of Love.  Caroline has always had the kindest hearts of all my girls, I was proud of her for wanting to do this.  Your hair has has to be a certain length in order to donate it (which disqualified Reagan and Hadley), so we couldn't cut it last summer.  About every other week, it would come up at the dinner table.  She never wavered, she never changed her mind.  Her face would always light up like a Christmas tree when we asked her about.  She. was. committed.  The funny thing about all this, is Baylor Grace would always say "not me, I want my hair like Rapunzel's!"

We knew we were getting close to the time to cut her hair, yesterday was the day.  Brooke explained to the girls that it does cost some money to make the wigs, so Caroline decided to call her family and friends and ask for donations.  Props to Pop (Brooke's dad) who was the first to be all in.  He might have been the easiest sell of all time.  She would say "I'm donating my hair today, it will cost a lot of money to make the wig, will you send some doesn't matter how much you can send."  She had Brooke call just about everyone in our family, including both Brooke and Callie.  Thanks to everyone for their support.  There was a lot of celebration going on as the money raised increased to over $100.  Baylor Grace took note and decided to do the same thing.  She told Brooke that she wanted to donate her hair, too.  She (Baylor) then went through and called everyone back and asked for some money to donate.  They raised over $200 to help the non profit make the wigs that will use their hair.

This was the proudest day of my life (I think I mentioned that).  I'm thankful that the girls had the awareness, at such a young age, to do something for others.  Life is more fulfilling when you realize and live for something bigger than yourself.  Caroline never backed out, Baylor Grace joined in.  Everyone knows that one of the hardest things for people with Cancer to face, is going out in public without their hair.  Sometimes the littlest things- like having a decent wig- can give them hope and strength to keep on fighting that fight.  I am proud of my girls.  They may not be curing Cancer, but maybe they will help in doing so.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

183 Steps

Dear Baylor Grace,

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (that I am home), I take the best 183 steps of my day.  It is 183 steps depending on where we park. I know this because we have taken the same basic route, the entire year.  The walk is only about a 3-5 minute walk, but it is something that I love.  It helps me focus on my priorities, and that walk also helps me get my mind right for the day.  Every morning, I lift you out of my truck and we begin our journey to your school.  Within the first few steps, you raise your gentle hand for mine.  I can't tell you how that gesture makes your Daddy feel.  I absolutely love holding your hand.  Normally you are talking, you talk almost the entire way.  I generally don't know what you're saying, but I listen as best as I can.  You also talk about the dead mouse we once found along our walk.  His memory lives on because you always talk about him.  We have done it in beautiful weather.  We have done it in painfully cold weather.  We have done it in the sun, and we did it this morning in the rain.  No matter what, its what I look forward to the most during the work week.

Today was my last day to do it this school year.  You don't have school on Friday, and I am gone all next week.  I wanted to thank you for always requesting me to take you to school.  It helps your mom out a lot, but it helps me too.  Yeah maybe Id work out a little more before work if I didn't take you, but it is a sacrifice I gladly make.  I don't know how much longer you will ask for me to do this, but I assure you my answer will always be yes.

I thought a lot about this past year, after you walked in the door today.  In case you are wondering, it still stings.  I feel like it always will.  It seems like just yesterday I held you for the first time, confused by the color of your eyes.  You are an angel on Earth to me.  It stings because every time you go in, I realize how much bigger you're getting, and how you will need us less and less.  You have learned your letters, you can write your name, you're even starting to read. This years walk took on a whole new meaning though, due to some incidents that we have tried to shield you from.  As a parent, you never expect to drop your child off at school and worry about an insane murderer.  I think Sandy Hook shook a lot of parents to core.  There have been school shootings before, all of them are horrific.  Nothing was as terrifying to see the beautiful, young, faces of those kids about your age.  Maybe it shouldn't be different with HS kid vs. a 1st grader, but it is different.  So letting you go, every other day, is even harder.  Then you have a tornado hit a school and some of those kids aren't coming home that day as a result.  Its just tough, you can literally paralyze yourself with fear thinking of everything that can go wrong.  It has taught me to make sure to hug and kiss you and your sisters (and Mom) everyday before we leave. You never know.  Whether its your first memory when you wake up, going into school, I leave for work, or you go to bed... I want your last thought of me, is of me giving you a hug and kiss, and of me telling you that I love you.  In the end, we just put our faith in God, and we hope that everything goes as planned.

I will miss those weekly walks, Baylor Grace.  I can never express how much you comforted me by placing your little hand into my hand.  I hope you enjoy your summer break, you have earned it.

Love always and forever,

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A walk to remember...

This weekend was my first weekend home in FOREVER, by forever I mean at least a month.  I have been working non stop, I was looking forward to sitting around and doing nothing for once.  Brooke had other plans.  A week or so ago, with slight trepidation in her voice, she asked if I would do this walk with/for her. It was a walk I didn't really want to do. Im tired, worn out.   I wasn't sure what the walk was about,  but I could tell it was important to her so I signed on.  Most Breast Cancer Awareness events take place in October,  its unusual to have something take place in May.  Regardless, this was a special walk for Brooke, and she wanted all of us to do it.

We got up and out the door by 8 this morning.  It was a cool, overcast day.  It would have been a great morning to lay in bed and watch TV, but this was important to Brooke.  We got there and we were surrounded by pink.  I saw lots of people in crazy pink outfits.  It looked as though the cotton candy monster had thrown up on Park Ridge.  I saw people of all races, ages, and backgrounds.  I saw survivors who were celebrating another day, I saw fighters who were standing strong underneath a wig.    I saw one fighter who is our age, with three kids.  This was a lady Brooke had worked so hard for during a recent consignment sale.  I probably gave Brooke a hard time for working so hard for someone I didn't know, it hit me like a ton of bricks when I finally met this lady.  I saw husbands who looked lost (as we almost always do anyway) because they were surrounded by constant reminders of the fact that they might lose their loved one in this battle, and I saw husbands (like me) who were just thankful for the good health of their spouse.

Being there brought me back to when we found out Mimi (Brooke's mom) had BC.  They pretty much found out on their way up to Louisville to visit us.  I remember a private moment when Pop (Brooke's father), my dad, and I, cried together.  We were alone and we knew it was safe to cry. I can only guess why we were crying.  I think Pop was crying because he knew the hell he went through with his Cancer, twice.  The agony of having that happen to your wife was too much for him (as it is for any of us) to bear.  I bet my dad was crying because any time you talk about Cancer, he cant help but think of what it did to his father, and he certainly didn't want that struggle to befall two people he loved.  I cried because I knew how it would effect Brooke.  Mimi is my wife's hero, her hero who was now in the fight of her life.  We brushed away the tears and tried to put on a brave face, because we are men....thats what we were supposed to do. We would go out and face this problem head on, we are supposed to be brave.  In reality, I think the only person who didn't cry (openly), and the bravest of us all that day...was Mimi.  Isn't that the way it normally is though?  The "brave men" turn to mush when the idea of something like this hits their loved ones.   The woman are the brave ones, they always are.

Mimi fought her Cancer and won, just like Pop twice did.  Just like my mother once did. You could say that Brooke and I are unlucky because 3 out of 4 parents have been stricken by Cancer.  In reality I think we ARE lucky,  because our parents have moved into the survivor category.  I remember the week Reagan was born, a news story said that a girl born today (February of 2006) would never die from Breast Cancer.  I can only hope.  Its bad enough to worry about my wife and my mothers with this awful disease.  Now, I have to worry about it for my 4 girls.    Cancer changes everything, it stays with you even when its "gone." Cancer makes you stop and smell the roses, Cancer makes you appreciate the little things in life, and Cancer gets your ass off the couch to go do a 5k in honor of someone you love.

Right at the starting line there was a pink fire truck. This truck goes all over the country in support of the women who have fought this disease.  Its covered in sharpie messages from survivors, loved ones, and ones left behind.  Despite all the craziness going on, Brooke got the girls up on the truck to sign was important to her. Now the girls message will travel all over the country, too.

Before long, we were off.  I was pushing Baylor Grace in a stroller, I pushed her the whole way.  When we got done, she gets out and sighs..."my legs are so tired!"  Really, Baylor Grace?  Caroline sat in the double stroller that Brooke was pushing.  She counted a whole bunch of the way, last I heard she was around 700.  Hadley, was talking on her hand phone.  Hadley wasn't making much sense, but I could tell by her tone that the conversation was very serious.  Reagan, to her credit, walked almost the whole way.  I told her that I was proud of her and that Mimi would be too.

Brooke wanted us to do something together as a family, get some exercise, and do this walk in honor of her mother. I'm not sure the girls totally understood why we were doing the walk, but we told them enough times that they started to catch on. It was a walk I originally didn't want to do, but I am glad she made me do it.    I was there for Mimi, but I was also there for Brooke....this was important to her.

It was a walk to remember for sure.  Originally I thought this was a walk I didn't want to do,  I realized it is a walk that I hope we never have to do again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I am a man! A man's review of Les Miserables

I am a man (not 40 like coach), I like man things.  I like Duck Dynasty, I like to fish (caught one last week), I even like hunting (although I don't do that much).  I drive a very large truck in a city that is not very accommodating for trucks.  I wear boots with almost every outfit I own.  I have a real tree camo UK hat.  I like SEC football and The Civil War.  I AM A MAN!

However, I recently watched Les Miserables for the first time.  Let me be clear, I knew very little about the musical prior to watching it.  I knew it had something to do with the French Revolution.  While I do not care much for French history, I do like military history.  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  So here is my manly, unbiased, review of this movie.  Yes, I did the American thing and watched the movie instead of seeing the play.

(Im just saying....)

Alright, so here is the skinny.  I do not see how Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress. Don't get me wrong, Anne was good, probably great.  The problem is she was only in the movie like 25 minutes total.  That might be a generous allotment, too.  She is barely in the movie.  Russell Crowe plays Javert, and he is pretty bad. I give him credit for having the "courage" to do this movie, but he isn't very good.  Borat is in the movie....basically playing Borat.  He is pretty good.  However, to me, Hugh Jackman absolutely steals the show.  He plays Jean Valjean, a character that most men could relate to.  He did an outstanding job, seriously.

Here is the bad (other than Russell Crowe)...they sing through the ENTIRE movie.  Now don't give me the  "duh, Boomer, its a musical!" crap.  Most musicals that I am aware of, Tommy, Camelot, Showboat, (that's the extent of my musical knowledge thanks to Trinity High School English department) have dialogue, song, dialogue, song.  This entire movie is singing, and its actually sort of distracting.  At least it was for me.  I also wanted to take a shower as a result of this movie.  These people, almost all of them, were disgusting.  Also, the more I watched it, the less I cared about their revolution, and realized I wasn't entirely sure what they were fighting for?  I think this is mainly because I was over thinking my AP Western Civ class (again, thanks to Trinity), but I ultimately really didn't care about a bunch of college hippies. I actually was somewhat sympathetic to Javert, who was just doing his job.  Even Jean Valjean admits this very fact.  I sort of felt like the movie/musical was sort of a mess.

There was good though, mainly Wolverine Jean Valjean.  What a great character arc, what a great performance.  Three scenes stuck out to me, two which dealt with the same subject.  Jean Valjean had been living a life of crime for stealing bread...seriously.  Anyway, about the time he is going to be sent back to jail he is saved by a Catholic Bishop (Myriel).  The Bishop covers for Jean and keeps him from going back to jail.  As a result of this, Jean dedicates his life to God and to living a better life.  Which, to his credit, he does.  I liked the fact that this event and intervention (from a Catholic), really steered him in the right direction.   This is something that many of us can relate to.   

Now, here comes the two scenes that I loved.  Through a series of events, Jean Valjean takes the above blond hair, blue eyed girl, (not Baylor Grace) under his wing to raise.  He realizes he is now a father, and everything has changed.  The world is "full of grace, full of light." Everything he had done wrong, was gone.  Happiness was his because of her.  His only fear, is failing her.  Can't every parent relate to this? Hasn't every father to a little girl gone through this very same thing!?  The moment you hold your child, the moment you hold your girl, for the first changes everything.  So here I am, a self proclaimed "mans man," on an airplane...fighting back the tears because this is exactly how I feel about my girls.  This scene really got to me, one of my favorites of the entire movie.

The second scene happened right towards the end of the movie. This is when his adopted (aforementioned) daughter comes to find her father, who is sick.  Jean Valjean proclaims that all he has done in his life, which was a lot of good, SHE was the best thing he did.  He considered her a blessing in this crazy world, and now that she was next to him, he could die in peace.  It actually was a beautiful scene, very moving.  

All in all it was worth watching, but I don't get all the fuss.  I gave you about 10 minutes out of a 2.5 hour movie.  I suppose those 10 minutes wouldn't have been meaningful without sitting through the other 150 minutes.  

Now, I need to go do something manly.  

Friday, April 5, 2013


Some say that adversity builds character.  I disagree, I believe adversity reveals character.

Hadley with binky on 4-21-2011

Last night was a big day in our house, the Binky Fairy came (presumably) for the last time.  This is always a traumatic day in our house for both child and parent.  The time spent crying themselves to sleep is always difficult for any parent to hear, especially when you know its because of your own doing.  It was very bittersweet this time, because this is just one of those last baby hurdles that we will never see again.

Hadley with binky on 4-4-2013

After I got home from work I was told it was time.  We all said goodbye to the binky and placed them on the front porch.  The girls were literally taking bets on how long it would take for the Binky Fairy to come.  When the BF comes, she (I guess its a girl) takes the binky and leaves a gift in its place.  The binky will then be given to a new baby that needs them.  Its the binky circle of life.  We had been prepping Hadley that this was going to happen.  She fully understands what her binky is, and she understands bye.  We have had her saying bye to her binky, she goes most of the day without, but like all comfort items, it was always there when she needed it.  After a few minutes, Brooke asked Hadley to go check the front door  to see if the BF had come, and there was "Princess (a stuffed pink poodle with big eyes)," the new toy from the BF.  This was very exciting.  Carolina goes "see I told you the Binky Fairy was fast."  I guess she won the bet.  The new toy became Hadley's favorite toy du jour.... for about five minutes.    Then this conversation happened:

Hadley: (to her mother) binky??????
Mom:  They are all gone, the Binky Fairy took them.  This is your new toy.
Hadley: (Walks over to the counter where Brooke's purse is.   Brooke would often keep a spare binky in her purse.  Hadley looks at it points to the purse and says).."ehhhhh?"
Mom: No Hadley, binky all gone
Hadley: (Walks over to the stair case points up to her bed) "EHHHH?"
Mom: No Hadley, binky all gone.
Hadley: (Walks over to the front door)
Brooke: We can look one more time if you want, but binky is all gone.
Hadley (like a hawk- visually sweeps back and forth on the porch looking for a binky).

Blankey (this is her blanket she carries around with her everywhere.  I know, we arent real original with names in my house.  Brooke once had a doll named....Dolly) and Princess didn't leave her side all night.  Honestly, we were pretty good without binky until bedtime.  That's when we had about 30 minutes of crying out for binky.  Poor girl.  The big girls liked it though, they had a sleep over in the basement, because we didn't know how bad it was going to get with Hadley.  Before you knew it, Hadley was asleep.

This morning we were all waking up and getting ready for the day, when Brooke decided to wash Hadley's sheets.  Why right then? I don't know.  The three of us are in Hadley's room and Brooke rips up the sheets and out flies a binky.  Admittedly, Brooke had cat like reflexes and swipes it up in her hand so Hadley doesn't get it.  So far, so good.  The look of sadness, joy and confusion in Hadley's face was priceless. Brooke later says "I knew she had buried a binky or two!"  Really, then why undress her bed in front of her?  Anyway, now we will see what Brooke is made of.  Now the pressure is on, the adversity has hit, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife.  I was fascinated to see what Brooke would do in this enormously high pressured situation.   So what does my wife of 10 years do?  The woman who carried and brought 4 children into this world.  The person who runs the house, cleans the house, pays the bills, feeds the kids, etc.  What does a woman with all these great attributes do, as her recently binkiless child stares at her mother who has a newly found binky in her hand?  And let me say this, figuratively speaking, if you ever wanted someone at the free throw line to win the big game, its Brooke.  She has ice in her veins, nothing ever rattles her.  She is always calm, cool, and collected.

Brooke quickly hands me the binky with a frantic  "do something stare in her eyes. She panicked. Hadley now looks at me with the most defeated and hurt look in her eye and says: Daddddyyyyyyyyy! At which point she begins to cry.  Now, this whole thing is my fault.

At this point I am thinking this can go one of two ways: either she can get over pretty quick and move on, or she can grow up to be stripper because her father took away her binky.  Luckily, by the time I was leaving for work I got my usual grand send off from Hadley.  I think we are good.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank my normally stoic wife for throwing me under the bus.  I will get you back for this.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, of UK

The Good- There isn't much good to talk about with this team.  I think the best thing that can be said about UK basketball for 2012-2013 is that this season is almost over.  Here is the good though, and it is really good.  We are about to receive the greatest recruiting class ever.  We have the #4, #5, #10, #13, #18, players in the 2013 class.  That is an entire starting 5 of the best players in the country.  3 or 4 of those could go straight to the NBA if allowed.  Also, these players are much more like last years class, than this years class.  They are high character, winners.  They are program builders, especially the Harrison twins.  They are mentally and physically tough, something this team lacked almost across the board.  This class will also have the best back court for UK since probably 96, probably better than Wall/Bledsoe.  That makes a huge difference.  Also, if that wasn't enough, UK very well could get the #2 player to commit on Wednesday (Julius Randle)!    That will then make it, #2, #4, #5, #10, #13, #18!  Unbelievable. All of this is not counting Derek Willis from KY and probably the kid from Madison Central.  Also, Stein, Goodwin and Proythress could very well come back next year.  We are going to be deeper than ever before.  Next year is going to be ridiculous, but that is 8 months away.  Right now we must swallow this dose of humble pie.

Also, spring football starts today, this is very exciting for once (honestly).

The Bad- This entire team is the bad. I predicted at the start of the year that this team would lose 10-12 games, the final record was 21-11.  I said the reason this team would struggle is because of weak guard play.  At least 6 of UK's losses were totally inexcusable. They were simply outworked.  I thought we would struggle because of the weak guard play, I didn't realize the entire team would struggle because of a lack of will.  Now, in UK's defense (if there is one), they lost 94% of their scoring last year, AND UK lost their best player mid year to an ACL tear.  Most teams would not overcome that.  Despite all of that, all we had to do was beat a .500 team to get in the NCAA tournament, and we couldn't do that.  We didn't deserve an NCCA bid. We can't complain, we cant cry about it, we have no one to blame but ourselves.  This is the gamble of always recruiting the best players in the country.  1) They need to be tough.  Up until this year, this hasn't been a problem.  2) Sometimes, it just doesn't work.  This team had no MKG on the team.  This is as bad as it gets, next year will be different.

The Ugly- This is a nightmare scenario for UK fans.  It looks like UofL is the best team in the bracket, Duke, Kansas and IU are the next best.  It could not have lined up worse for #BBN.  I do wish those teams the best, and I hope UofL wins it.  This is their best chance, if it doesn't happen now, it might not ever happen with Pitino.  I see a possible scenario that matches NCAA football of recent, Bama-AU-Bama- Bama.  We shall see. Only thing for sure is that we won it last year.  Regardless, UK fans should duck and cover for the next 3 weeks, its going to be ugly.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Nearer My God To Thee

What is courage? I suppose there are a lot of places you can find courage, true courage.  A soldier on the battlefield that goes back into the fire to try and rescue a fallen brother. A parent that holds their child tight when the storm rages outside.  A child, sick in bed, who looks up into her parents eyes with a reassuring look to comfort her parents so that they know the fight will continue.  Or, the courage of a parent to know when their child's fight can't.  A grandfather who holds his wife's hand when it is her time to be called to the Lord.  A child on her first day of school, a parent as they watch their baby go off to college for the first time.  Courage can been seen in a lot of different ways, on a lot of different levels.  

I find that courage is one of those things I have had to work on the most as a parent.  Your kids look to you for comfort, encouragement, to reassure them that things are going to be okay.  When your kid falls, your reaction to her falling has a direct effect on her reaction to the fall.  If you freak out, even when it looks bad, they will freak out too.  If you fight that urge, and remain calm, they will mostly likely do the same.  I remember when we looked up at the ultrasound and were told that we might have lost the baby (Hadley).  I cry all the time, the girls do that to me.  Brooke never cries.  This was one time when roles were reversed.  She cried in that hospital room, and I remember the "fight or flight" feeling building in me.  I knew I had to remain calm, I had to remain strong.  We had the girls at home to think about, and I needed to comfort Brooke.  I didn't think it was fair, we already loved our new baby and didn't want to lose her, but I had to be brave.  I don't think of myself as an overly brave person, I have a lot of fear.  This was one major time I had to remind myself to be brave, or at least appear to be brave.  Too many people counted on me.  There will always be a later time to close the door, turn off the lights, and cry.  In the end, no matter how religious you think you are (or aren't), these trying moments bring you to your knees in prayer.  There are no atheist in a fox hole.   Id like to think my wife is one of the bravest people I know.  Nothing, short of the above example, gets to her.  She is calm, cool and collected.  I draw a lot of strength from her strength.  It is contagious, as is fear.  I think that's why our girls are so well adjusted, because their mother is so stable.  

I have had a few conversations lately about this idea of courage,  I speak of it to SAE a lot.  Do you have the courage to do the right thing?  Do you have the courage to hold others accountable when it is not easy, or popular, to do so?  These are attributes I hope that SAE teaches our young men.  Generally (hopefully), what they face in college does not compare to the trials they will face in life.  I hope our values help them have the courage needed when they do face those difficult times.  Recently,  I was addressing this issue when I asked the audience if they could guess a moment that I thought reflected an extraordinary amount of courage?  Many guessed times of battle (where courage is often showed), some guessed a sports example (where I guess in its own way has its courageous moments).  I then suggested the violinist on the deck of the Titanic.  With hell, literally flooding in all around him, he made the choice to continue to play.  As a result, others joined him.  It was a perfect example of The Serenity Prayer.  

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference.

The gentleman on the deck didn't panic, he didn't make an effort to do anything other than what he was best at.  He knew he couldn't change what was happening, he accepted his fate, and he made a beautiful moment out of it.  That was courage.

It has been a "pleasure" to share some of my stories with you, thanks for those who continue to come back and read them.  This is a way for me to reach those I love who are far away.  Your love and support gives us strength...courage.